Can you list 5 good things about the school you attended? If you went to multiple schools, pick any one of them. Get set go, think of them now.
Once you finish with the list, think of 5 bad things about one vacation you went on.
Do not read further without completing them both. It will hardly take a minute or two.
If you visualize your school right now, you will find all your happy memories popping up. All the unicorns and the rainbows. On the other hand, if you visualize the vacation you thought about, you will notice a gloomy picture where you did not enjoy yourself.
What if you reverse the exercise? What if you mention 5 bad things about the same school and 5 good things about the same vacation? Your brain paints a different picture altogether.
The situation and the events occurred in the past. Yet, what you feel about them seem like two opposite poles on a magnet, based on what you want to see.
The perception of reality
Reality never changes. You cannot alter what has already happened. Even if you have a time machine, scientists and philosophers agree that changing the past goes beyond the realms of science we know today.
In short, you cannot change the past. Today, you cannot change the place you went on a vacation to or the school you studied at. But what you have complete control over is your perception of events. You can perceive an event based on how you want to see it, or you can be more realistic in terms of your perception.
Two people can view the same sequence of events and have a different opinion about the situation altogether.
Let me ask you what do you feel about the concentration camps during the world war? You would visualize ghastly torture, suffering, and death.
Ask Viktor Frankl, the survivor of 4 concentration camps. He will give you a different answer.
Though the camps took the lives of his parents, wife, and brother, Viktor managed to find meaning and purpose amidst all the suffering. Make no mistake, Viktor did not enjoy the suffering. But, he believed his life had a meaning irrespective of the terrible circumstances he was living under.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor mentions in his best-seller book, Man’s search for meaning that people who were more oriented towards such a meaning and purpose to their lives were the ones who had a higher chance of survival in the camps.
He speaks about other prisoners dying around Christmas because they had a hope that they would be back home by then. When the reality turned out otherwise, they gave up and lost their lives. It appeared as if the suffering killed them but it was their brain that succumbed to their belief.
How To Use Your Perception To Your Advantage?
1. Look at the brighter side of things
If you approach and view a circumstance with a positive mindset, things around you work in your favour. For example, if you have a co-worker who seems to have a hatred towards you, you have two options:
a. Fight hatred with hatred
b. Look at the positive side of the same person
If you choose to retaliate, give it back, and view that person how you want to see them, both of you end up nowhere. Unless someone from a higher authority intervenes, you will not reach a compromise. At best, you both choose to ignore each other.
As an alternative, you can look at the positives of the other person and try to improve your relationship from your end. Chances are, the other person will change himself too.
You do not have to turn into a doormat for people to trample upon. But when a person has a problem with you, it is because of some fault of yours which you agree to or not.
Changing the impression of the other person from negative to positive is a choice for you to make. You can make an effort towards the same or choose to ignore it altogether, assuming the other to be at fault.
2. Do not blame, complain or make excuses
“I failed at X because”
“If Y had happened ..”
“I tried approach Z but”
When you use the words if, but, because after a failure, chances are you making an excuse or blaming another person/the situation.
Blaming others and making excuses is the easiest way to justify and hide our own mistakes. You find it easier to blame luck than admit that you failed to try a new approach.
You feel good about yourself by blaming the market for not getting a better job than accepting the fact that your skills need improvement.
It is simpler to say that your partner does not understand you than put in the effort to understand why your partner reacted that way.
Excuses help you stay in the comfort zone. They are your pathway to tell yourself that you’re perfect, you did your best and the result was out of your control. But in each and every case, you have the power to influence the result in some way unless you’re targeting an unrealistic goal. Yes, in every single one.
Cultivate a mindset of no blame. No matter what goes wrong, do not sulk in the corner. Stand up, look back at your flaws, learn from the experience and plod ahead as a wiser and stronger person.
3. Do not play the victim card
I have tried many business ventures which have fallen flat on their face. During my first few failures, I always had an excuse.
It was either the market, my business partner, a competitor and what not. I always assumed I did my best and it was never my fault. I considered myself a victim of bad events.
The world is a huge sphere of random events triggered by different causes. Sometimes things go in your favour and sometimes they do not.
When you achieve the results you worked for, you do not give credit to your luck, do you? But when things go wrong, you easily find something to blame, turning you into a victim. Now is that fair?
How would it sound if a horse-rider boasted about his skills after winning a race but blamed the horse after a loss? That is exactly what you do when you take credit for victories and find a reason after failure.
For example, when you manage to negotiate a huge sales deal, you pat yourself on the back. If you lose the contract because you were late due to a traffic jam, you curse the traffic and you base your losses on what you want to see. To make things even, you must thank the traffic after making a successful sale, but you don’t operate that way, do you?
You are a victim only if you choose to be one.
How A Positive Perception Helps You
On the surface, you might feel little to no effect from having a positive mindset. But you gain a lot from being positive.
1. Gratitude reciprocates
When you are thankful and positive about the things around you, good things happen to you. I am not talking about the universe returning the good you provide to the world based on the law of attraction. The explanation is based on logic and common sense.
How do you feel when you talk to a person who always has a bright smile on his face? Don’t you feel your mood lightening up when you have a conversation? Do you feel like being rude to the same person if something went wrong? I doubt it.
Another example: How do you feel about the person who is always willing to help you? When an opportunity arises to return the favour, you feel a natural impulse to help him out. Can you outright reject doing something for a person who has helped you often? Again, I doubt it.
If you are the smiling and helping person, people will reciprocate your gratitude. The reason – because it is hard not to.
2. Positivity helps you stay motivated
If you encounter a traffic jam on your way to work, you can curse your luck and the government for bad infrastructure and even think of your events based on what you want to see. Well, even if the party in power deserves your abuse, how will that help you?
When you tag negativity to a situation or an outcome, it ruins your mood. If you curse the traffic for reaching your meeting late, you spoil the rest of your day too.
Try taking it in a positive light. Maybe if you reached the meeting on time, you would make a blunder which would do more harm than good to your career. This way you can go about the rest of your day with peace of mind.
Your positive attitude does not always help you change the outcome but prevents further damage.
3. You build better rapport
Have you encountered a person who complains about every little thing? Someone who views the world based on what they want to see? The food tastes bad, my boss is a jerk, my partner does not understand me, my luck is jinxed and what not. Do you feel excited about meeting such a person?
Compare that with another person who bounces back after any failure and absorbs difficulties like a sponge soaks water.
Whom would you choose to have as a friend? Well, your answer is obvious.
Positive people build more friendships because they come across as likable people. The difference does not seem apparent with one or two relationships. Give it time and the network spreads like a gigantic web, yielding returns in various shapes and forms.
4. You operate inside your locus of control
As a person, you have things you can control and change, such as: improving your career, building better relationships, exercising often, improving as a person
All such things fall under your locus of control. You can bring a change in any behaviour, activity or outcome which falls under this area.
Beyond the orange circle lie a million other things which you have no control over. Cursing your luck, blaming another person, making an excuse about the government does no good. They are all outside your locus of control. You have no control over that area and you only spoil your mood by breaking a sweat about them.
5. You improve over time
Every time you encounter a failure or negative feedback, you have an opportunity to grow. If you choose to play the victim card and choose to see only what you want to see (assuming things were out of your control), you lose the chance.
When your business idea fails, you can choose to blame your partner or look at what you could have done better. If your boss promotes your colleague, you can call your boss biased or analyze what you missed doing. If your partner gave you a cold shoulder, you can raise your arms in the air for the insensitive attitude or look at how you can become more understanding.
With every positive look at your circumstances, you grow little by little, like a sapling in the mud. If you check each day, you notice no change. A year later, you will see a majestic tree with rich green leaves and juicy fruits.
The world around you remains as is. The stock market will keep wobbling, the government will keep changing and obstacles will keep appearing.
Your only option is to view the change from a different angle rather than just focus on what you want to see. When you look at it like a problem that caused your failure, you lose. When you tweak that mindset to believe you are the captain of your ship, you steer towards greener pastures.
There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.
– Aldous Huxley